first day of kindergarten, can you imagine?! (video)

In ALL, PERSONAL VIDEOS by Stephanie Klein28 Comments

First day at a new school, in a new city, first day at any Elementary school, period. There’s a first time for everything. Watch the video below, and you’ll see what I mean…

I may have a canary over what to make the kids for lunch, may complain over the size of my kitchen and ass, but when the big stuff happens, the shit that actually matters, I reel it in and deal. I’m not a mess, phoning Phil, helpless, pleading to him for answers. “But what should I do?!” No. None of it. I amaze myself at how calm I am when the truly frightening things in life happen.

Driving myself to the hospital in labor, giving birth to twins by myself, ten weeks early, and there I am, calm as ever, asking the nurse for a room the way one might ask “How long for a pedicure?”

Lucas’s emergency brain surgery. The most scared I’ve ever been in my entire life. Full of fear, but calm and decisive. You have my consent. QVC was on the television as the doctors attempted to stick a needle into his brain.

Phil suddenly going into third degree heart block, nurses crying to me about MY husband’s health, Phil having to get heart surgery, having to wear a man bra vest, being warned by the doctor that he mustn’t lift anything over ten pounds. And my response? “Guess masturbating is out.”

It’s not that I’m calm, or maybe it is. What it is, is this. In any situation that really matters, I immediately know what’s in my control. I don’t yell at people or try to teach them a lesson. I don’t raise my voice. I don’t do anything to further aggravate a situation. I’m in someone else’s hands just then. I do as much as I can, keep everyone around me as calm as possible, and I handle what is in my power to handle. I never look for fault or blame, not when it actually matters. I don’t know why. It’s just the way I’m built. I hope my children get this gene.

As the bus that should have contained my daughter drove away, I clicked through my phone to an email from the school Principal, scrolled to his email signature and tapped on the number. I got an answering machine. I left an urgent message. I texted some friends in the neighborhood, hoping they’d get the word out, perhaps Abigail was on their children’s bus. I didn’t call Phil. What could he do? Call the school, like me. I called the school again. This time, someone answered. I explained the situation, that my son arrived home safe and sound WITHOUT HIS TWIN SISTER Abigail. As you can imagine, the office was panicked. They didn’t know where she was either. “Please hold while we call transportation.”

While on hold, I ushered Lucas inside. I’d already set out plates with hummus, cut up veggies, and a handful of tortilla scoops, cups of milk. “Have your snack, while I make a few calls outside.” I wanted to wait outside in case another bus circled ’round. “Mrs. Beer?” they asked over the phone. I wasn’t about to correct them with “Klein,” and instead said, “Yes, yes, I’m still holding.” They found her. I was sure that’s what they’d say next. But they didn’t.

“Okay, just making sure you’re still there. Please hold.” They didn’t know where she was. There was nothing more I could do. I paced outside our home, on the watch for approaching cars or busses. There weren’t any.

Lucas came outside. “Mama, I forgot where you went.” He wanted a hug. I think he was scared. In the morning, we drove them to school. It being their first day, we wanted to meet the other parents, send them off in that traditional “make more of these moments” way. We’ve separated Lucas and Abigail since early early pre-school days, in the “three’s,” arranging for them to be in different classrooms for the good of their independence and personal growth. Being in different classes, Lucas didn’t know they were supposed to be on the same bus. It just hadn’t occurred to him. Besides it’s a BIG BUS, so for all he knew, she was ushered into the bus earlier, sitting somewhere toward the middle.

Still on hold, twenty minutes later, I stepped inside, hearing my land line ring. Mind you, I don’t even know the phone number. It was Carol, my Dad’s wife, calling to speak to the kids, wanting to know how her grandchildren liked their first day of school. After telling her the story, confirming with her that Abigail did absolutely have a tag attached to her backpack, listing her address, bus number, home phone and a list of FIVE emergency phone numbers, I warned her, “Don’t talk to Phil, he’ll only feel helpless and freak out.” Which is exactly how I felt, sure, but I knew what was in my actual control. I went back outside, still on hold with the school.

An empty bus showed up at my door. Not Abigail’s bus, but another one, with the driver explaining that they’d put her on the wrong bus. I can only assume he read the tag on her backpack, or that he asked her her address (we’ve been having the kids memorize it, even though it’s so new). When he opened the door to let her out, there were no tears from either of us.

I didn’t cling onto her with dear life, didn’t frisk her body for wounds or pet her hair and hold her close. I slapped her five and asked her how her first day of kindergarten was. To which she responded with a huge smile, saying, “It was great.”

When the school’s secretary returned to the line, panic still in her voice, I assured her that Abigail was now home safe, which she then repeated to whomever was within earshot. The hunt was called off. The principal phoned me moments later, apologizing profusely. He said the words, and he was heartfelt, of course. But I assured him that it was okay, that all that mattered was that she was safe and that it didn’t happen again, to her or to any other child. He corrected me, that it was appalling, unacceptable, that it would most definitely not happen again. And that was enough for me. Of course when I did tell Phil, once he was home, at the dinner table, he was outraged. On the phone again with the sweet principal. And then, he too, was finally over it. Mostly. When he saw this video I took, he got all riled up again. We’re just built differently. Yin, yang.

Comments

  1. Calm under pressure. :) I am the same way. I just get this sense of calm and into the “Let’s figure this out” mode. Freaking out doesn’t help anything in a moment like that. I have been in the oddest situations, including times where I was with a bunch of grown men and came upon a car accident and I was the one that started first aid and CPR and told these big guys to “go call 911” “Go direct traffic around the accident site” ect.

    I think it’s a great thing to know about yourself. High five to you!

  2. Good job, Stephanie! This reminds me of the time she got lost at the zoo or the maze or park or something…I admire your cool exterior and it teaches your children so much. This is a good post.

  3. Holy shit, Stephanie. That is, without a doubt, every mom’s worst nightmare. Just watching the video brought me to tears. My hat’s off to you for not letting Lucas hear any panic in your voice. You are a great mama. I’m so glad your babies are home safe and hope they love their new school.

    1. Author

      Thanks love. I do miss your face and voice and sweet sweet mothering. And now that we’re rolling into fall, I think of you so often. Not just when there’s a tomato on my counter, but when the stores fill with pumpkin colors. Miss you girly.

  4. I don’t know why I feel like crying right now, but I do. Obviously, you have tapped into one of my fears, one that I didn’t quite realize was so close to the surface. My first grader’s tiny school doesn’t even have a school bus, and yet this post still made me want to hyperventilate. So glad your big brave girl was found and okay! You handled it beautifully, and yeah – think you do deserve a pat on the back for that. So does she, for having such a great attitude about it. And you have reminded me that I haven’t filled out the name and address tag on my kiddo’s backpack yet. Oops.

  5. Holy smokes, girl! You are a rock-star parent. I love the fact that you didn’t terrify either of the poppets…their first day of school will be a happy memory rather than a scary one. Great, great job! So glad she got home safe and sound.

    In the on-going saga of mom’s “Death by Hip Replacement”, I’ve had to rely on that trait as well. Wiping up trails of blood and other bodily fluids, changing wound vac canisters, washing pus-caked jammies, pushing drugs through a pic line…ack! I’m the most squeamish person I know! But – calm and level and steady is the way….we’d get her tucked in, I’d go out to the car and shake and cry and freak out, until the next crisis where I’d appear and be tough as nails.

  6. After watching the video I was hoping she was on the bus. Our busdriver too called to the back of the bus on the first day, andrew b……… he gets off and says ” how did she know my name?” He didn’t know where he was. Bus stops here are not by the house. Lovely

  7. You f’ing rock lady! That would set off every panic alarm in my body! I have twins and if one didn’t make it out, I cannot imagine myself having the presence of mind to ask the other one about thier day. You are a very good mom. Bravo on your reaction.

  8. A while back I posted a comment about how the school lost my daughter on the second day of first grade. I remember you wrote back and agreed that you would have freaked as well. Although I’m sure you were freaking on the inside, you handled the whole thing much better than I did on the outside. I think this must just be a “mom with new elementary school kids” milestone… Lunchboxes? Check. New shoes? Checks? School lost my kid? Check.

  9. I am so impressed with how you handled this, but I also wanted to add that, as a stepmother to three lovely young women (we have great relationships) it is one of my fondest hopes that one day when they have children they will understand that my love for them will be no different than my love for the grandchildren my own daughter might give me…I love it that you acknowledge that Carol called about her grandchildren, thank you for that!

  10. I am impressed. Mine are 5th and 7th grade now so we’ve done school for quite a while. But first day of kindergarten???? I would have TOTALLY lost my shit. I would have searched the bus myself. Something. So proud that you didn’t relay panic to your son and screw up his first day. VERY impressive!

  11. Good job mama! You did a great job with both kids – Lucas when you were looking for Abigail, and Abigail when she returned. Scary stuff, I’ve been there and know!

  12. I’m not a Mom, and I don’t play one on TV. But I thought about your bean a lot today, with surprisingly increasing anxiety. The mixture of fierce fear and irreplaceableness of her, the reminder of her getting lost in the maze… I want her close to you always. I appreciate your calmness, but I wanted to cut someone on your behalf, just a tiny bit.

  13. You really are a great mom, keeping things cool for Lucas and then not showing any fear when Abigail showed up. I too teared up while reading your story. Glad the beans are safe and had a wonderful first day of kinder!!

  14. I have to be honest, although I think your reaction was calm, I think this might have a moment for you to show a bit more concern or urgency. At least tpwards the bus driver, and I assume the attendant on the bus. First (leaving your part in this aside for the moment) I think the Bus Driver’s complete nonchalance and quite frankly disregard was the most troubling. Clearly your daughter should have been on the bus and he should have been aware of who was on his bus. At my son’s school, they take attendance on the bus before it leaves school. And there is an attendant with a list checking off the names of every child as he/she leaves the bus. This guy didn’t even know that your daughter was supposed to be on the bus in the first place, and didn’t seem to care that much that she wasn’t. I kept waiting for an attendant to come out with a list and ask for the name, and check the list, something that would indicate that these people took some care in transporting 5 year olds. If she mistakingly got on the wrong bus, than HER bus never should have left school in the first place. I don’t want to seem alarmist but I hope you don’t drop this with the school district and you make sure they review and adapt their policies. Now, on to you. You went on and on about how much research you put into test scores and what stupid nonsense they do in class all day, and you went on visits, meanwhile they LOSE your kid and nothing?? Did you ask about their busing policies too? Did you look into if there were monitors, if they took attendance. Again at my son’s school we had a bus orientation, we met the drivers, the kids got to meet who would be on their bus, they took a little drive, and we were given very detailed explanation about their safety procedures and the check lists to avoid this type of event. And I live in a very large school district, very similar to Rosyln (or Jericho or whereever you chose). In addition, how in god’s name did you let the bus just drive away? They have radios and phones, you just let him drive away. I get not wanting to freak your son or other kids out, but if I were Lucas I would have been wondering where my sister was and you as their mother gave the impression that it wasn’t a very big deal. wrong impression to give. sorry. I don’t think this was a shining parenting moment for you. It seemed to be a fail all around. But I am very glad that it all ended well.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the response, Jenifer. It’s always insightful to see how others think they might have handled a situation. Of course none of us can say how we will handle something, until we are, in fact, given something to handle, but I appreciate the thought. The only exception I take to what you’ve written here is your judgment “what stupid nonsense they do in class all day.”

      I was unable to visit any schools, and Phil visited two schools: one Jericho school and the only elementary school zoned for Roslyn/ East Hills, NY. The size of the school in Roslyn has I believe 9 different Kindergarten classes, perhaps more. I can’t recall. My children are in a grade of 52 students, total, split among three different kindergarten classrooms, and one of those classrooms has two certified teachers, not teachers’ aids. There was no bus orientation and there is no aid on the bus. There was no one to get off the bus with a clipboard. It’s a public school in a very small district. There is a bus aid, the principal assured me, whose job it is to ensure that the correct students are on the correct bus, but she does not ride on any of the buses. She messed up. There wasn’t anything I could have done in that moment to prevent it from having happened or from happening again. In that moment with Lucas’s hand in mine, I didn’t see anything more I could have done. What was done, was done. Following up with the principal once my daughter was safe at home, discussing the how’s and why’s, was done. But in that moment, it wouldn’t have done any good. There were still children on the school bus, awaiting their homes. And the rule in our district is that absolutely no parents may get on the bus at any time. Yes, I could have had the driver get on his radio with transportation, but it hadn’t come top of mind to me in the moment. I was in shock, sure, but I also thought of the other kids on the bus, of Lucas, and figured I’d just better do all I could do in that moment. A “fall all around” is a ballsy statement. I think what’s radical about being a good mother is supporting other mothers, whether or not you agree with their opinions and methods. we’re all feeling our way as we go.

      1. That’s an interesting note about how the school system has a rule about no parents on the bus – as I was watching, I thought, “wow, that’s incredibly restrained of her not to just storm onto that bus and start looking for her kid”, but that makes sense.

        And frankly, I think you handled that exact moment, requiring calm, very well. That bus driver clearly had no idea nor enough concern that your daughter wasn’t aboard, and the time you spent arguing with him on the curb was time you could be on the phone to more responsible parties. Well done, Stephanie.

  15. God knows I don’t need a cyber fight just now and I know I should be big enough to rise above this, but I am going to have to say something about this. Jenifer, you have very valid points about the bus system needing to be more organized and I too would have definitely freaked out more if it had been me BUT that is exactly why I was impressed with her reaction.

    It’s not really your place to judge this as a bad parenting moment. Some people hold the philosophical view that in an event like that, no matter what your reaction is, it is not in your hands, the events are already set into motion. I don’t think it was a fail of a parenting moment. In fact, if heaven forbid, poor abby didn’t come home (and I am so so sorry to even bring up this scenario because as a mother, of twins no less, it makes me sick to my stomach to imagine – s.i.c.k.) I am thinking a very intense period of trying to help Lucas cope would begin right then. Stephanie yelling, holding the school bus, causing a stink just then, would have begun the trauma, and not just for Lucas…for the entire bus, the entire community. and maybe the difference here is having that second child to look after their emotional well being.

    As I said, I wouldn’t have let the bus pull away and I understand your reaction to her reaction Jenifer BUT I would never be so arrogant as to assume that the way I would react is the correct way. In fact, I took this as a moment to reflect and try to grow a little bit and learn from others.

  16. Also, since this was the kids’ first day, she probably didn’t realize that drivers can be in immediate communication with the transportation office. I didn’t consider this point until a similar incident occurred with my own child.

    I don’t think bus attendants are the norm for most districts.

  17. If it makes you feel any better, you are the third friend of mine (if I may be so bold) that this has happened to this year. Kudos to you for being at home and ready to deal with the crisis. The other situations resulted in a 5 year old and an 8 year old being left alone in front of their respective houses – they were both supposed to be on a bus to their respective after-school care sites, but were put on the busses home. What a nightmare. Glad both are home safe and sound, and hope they had otherwise wonderful days.

  18. Highly recommend a volunteer system where parents can ride the buses with the Kindergarten kids the first week. Works great in our district (Port Washington). PTA coordinates the volunteers and also supervises to make sure every child gets on the right bus. Not taking credit for it – I sure didn’t think of it myself.

  19. Stephanie, first let me apologize, I know this sounds disingenuous since i was judging you but I didn’t do it to make you feel badly. I generally think your great parent. But not because of the things you talk about doing. I think your a great parent because your kids seem happy, and that’s really all that matters to me. I think we (you and I) have many similarities but many fundamental differences in our parenting styles, but regardless I think we would be friends. We are the same type of people and you remind me of many people I already know and love. As for my comment, I honestly believe that your reaction was inappropriate, if for no other reason, than the bus driver. He didn’t seem phased AT ALL that your daughter was missing. And your reaction only reinforced that it’s not his responsibilty or his problem and someone else will figure it out. Well maybe it is not his responsibilty, but it should be, even if it is just by default. He drives those kids. Therefore he should be responsible for them. And if I was him and I failed to bring a child home and the mother simply walked away calming saying ok let’s make some calls about this. Do you think 1) that the bus driver is going to take any extra care tomorrow or the next day? Probably not. Why would he. Someone else will handle it, someone else will get the crap about it. Contrast that with the driver if he had been confronted by me and my child wasn’t on the bus. Rules or not, I am on that bus looking under every seat to make sure my chiild hasn’t fainted or had a seizure or just hiding under a seat, (or at the very least I am standing in the door watching someone else do it); then I call 911 because now I have missing minor child and that is a situation where Law Enforcement should be notified as soon as possible (as person formerly in law enforcement-even though most times it turns as innocent as this time did, there are many occasions where it doesn’t and waiting even 10 minutes to call the cops can have drastic consequences. And third, that bus is not going anywhere until the driver speaks to his dispatcher or whoever at the school and that person gives me some information about what is going on. Now, after that scenario do you think that that bus driver will take a little more care/involvement/notice of the kids on his bus because even though it’s not his job, I have made it his problem. Yes, is it inconvenient for the kids, yes. But they can learn something too. Pay attention and get on the correct bus. I assume you spoke with Abigail later about how it was that she got on the wrong bus and you reinforced how important that she check the bus she on and she should ONLY get on the bus that is hers (all of our buses have names of animals). Because I certainly don’t think Abigail did anything wrong, but she needs to know that by her getting on the wrong bus cause a lot commotion and worried a lot of people and she needs to be more careful next time to get on the correct bus. As for my comment about the “nonsense they do int he classroom” I was harsh for the sake of the argument, but my point was a major focus of where you choose to live was the kids schools. You investigated everything they did in the classroom, when quite honestly it’s kindergarten, and you were choosing from very good affluent schools. You weren’t deciding between Roslyn and the South Bronx. The things you focused on were insignificant in the bigger picture. What I was asking was, you spent so much time looking into that :”nonsense” but did you think to ask about their bussing program, how it works, who are the drivers, are their monitors, etc.? It would seem that this would have been something you would have asked about since it deals with the immediate issue of child physical safety. I am not in your district but I think it’s pretty standard to have a bus monitor for the kids, to keep track of them, make sure they stay seated and buckeled. As for whether they are norm, you live in one of the most affluent communities on Long Island, they can afford monitors.

    One thing I do apologize for is not ending my original post like this “hey no one knows how they will react in any given experience, especially those involving our kids. I often thank god that no one is filming me while I grocery shop with my kids, since there are never any award winning parenting moments coming out of that experience. And 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. I can’t say that I would have done it differently. I got the sense you were a little in shock and that driver kind of took advantage of that and just bailed on you. I would like to think i would have done all the things I said I would, but who knows. I like to use a law school experience as an analogy. Parenting is like those hypothetical legal issues you get in law school where you had to find the “answer” but there was never a right answer, there were just varying degrees of how right or wrong you were going to handle it. However, unlike law school, the situations are not hypothetical, they are polar opposite of hypothetical. And you don’t just get one and move on. They are never ending, constant and you don’t get graded on a curve. Good luck and I am glad Abby is ok.

    Again sorry about the typos. It’s late.

  20. Jenifer, I think you need to step away from the comments.

    Stephanie wrote that the school had put her child on the wrong bus. I don’t know whether you have children in school, but if you do, you will be aware that the bus driver does not stand there and check the name tags. In fact, the busing is often provided by an outside contractor.

    It’s the school’s responsibility to get the right child on the right bus, as SK’s principal acknowledged to SK on the phone. Obviously, the school (and its bus monitors) made a mistake, which happens at many schools on the first day.

    Therefore, I can’t imagine what could be accomplished by admonishing the bus driver.

    I’m not trying to be nasty, but I’m really not seeing your point and you seem to be strangely over-focused on this issue while lacking most of the relevant information (i.e., you have no idea what SK or her husband discussed with her district in terms of busing).

    You’re not winning a lot of sanity points with these posts. That’s what I’m trying to say.

  21. Well done on staying so calm. I can only hope that if I am faced with such a situation (which I also hope never happens), I will be able to deal with it so calmly and efficiently. The only thing I would have done though is differently? Once she was found safe and sound, gone out of my childrens’ earshot, called the school, and let rip. But I’m sure your way is effective.

    And in a sidenote, I am always amazed at your restraint when responding to the haters. Really. It is a real lesson to me in grace and self-control.

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